TamTam Books News

Saturday, April 19, 2003:

METROPOLIS by Osamu Tezuka (Dark Horse Comics)
ISBN: 1-56971-864-4 $13.95

Osamu Tezuka, the real ‘Pa’ of Astro Boy, seemed to be obsessed with the nature of humans and how they interact with insects, the environment, family and of course robots. The leading character in this wonderful graphic novel ‘Metropolis’ is Michi. He/she is a beautiful ‘artificially’ created human who can change from one gender to another - as well as being able to fly and have the strength of seven or ten Hercules’ – this ‘child’ is also confused about where he or she came from. For Michi doesn’t know his or hers existence as an artificially made person.

Lurking in the background is her ‘father’ of sorts the very evil and of course -the King of Crime- Duke Red. Who is also the master of disguises and has a gang of outlaws working for him. Reminds me very much of Fantomas and is probably one of the reasons why I love this graphic novel.

Duke Red kidnaps the brilliant scientist Dr. Lawton to force him to make the perfect artificial being Michi – who is made out of synthetic proteins. The good doctor escapes with his invention Michi and goes on the lam. What happens next is a 1940’s movie serial cliffhanger serving as a moral tale about the nature of science and how it can affect society and culture.

Tezuka projected the subject of race on his robots. The androids are treated as second-class slaves – and there is a strong call into question regarding the liberation of the machines from human rule and to fight back against their aggressors. There is nothing simple about what ‘Metropolis’ and Tezuka are saying about the nature of being human in a world where there are more issues on Earth than being a human being. Also the drawings are superb. ‘Metropolis’ is retro-future in its look, but at the time of it writing and drawing (1948), this manga must have been an optimistic viewpoint of what the future will look like. This is a sobering thought considering Japan was attacked with atomic bombs – and at the time, the world was heading towards a Cold War. Great work!

Tosh // 3:52 PM

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